Nearly three months after her parents were shot dead in their Wisconsin home and a nationwide search began to locate the missing 13-year-old girl, Jayme Closs has been found alive.
The girl described by friends as a “sweet and shy” middle schooler was found in a neighborhood in northwestern Wisconsin about an hour’s drive from her home in Barron, Wisconsin.
The Barron County Sheriff’s Department said that 21-year-old suspect Jake Patterson was arrested Thursday in Jayme’s disappearance.
Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said he believes Jayme “was the only target.” Patterson is being held for kidnapping and the murder of Closs’ parents.
“I can tell you the subject planned his actions and took many proactive steps to conceal his identity from law enforcement and general public,” Fitzgerald said.
Here’s what we know:
Where was Jayme found?
Jayme was found in the town of Gordon, Wisconsin, at 4:43 p.m. on Thursday, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Gordon is about 40 miles south of Lake Superior and about 65 miles north of Barron, Jayme’s hometown. The town is home to about 645 people in a heavily forested region where logging is the top industry. During the winter, many homes are left vacant.
How was she found?
Jayme escaped from a home in Gordon, approached a neighbor walking a dog and asked for help. The neighbor, retired social worker Jeanne Nutter, said Jayme appeared thin with matted hair but physically OK. Nutter took her to the nearby home of Peter Kasinskas, The Star Tribune of Minneapolis reports, saying “This is Jayme Closs! Call 911!” Kasinskas told the Tribune that Jayme didn’t know where she was but believed she had been in the area for most of the last three months.
This file photo of an undated image released by the Barron County Sheriff’s Department in Wisconsin shows 13-year-old Jayme Closs. Closs was found alive, the Barron County Sheriff’s Department announced on their Facebook page on Jan. 10. (Photo: HO, AFP/Getty Images)
Did police capture her kidnapper?
Minutes after Jayme was found, a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy spotted a car described by Jayme and authorities took a suspect, 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson, into custody. He faces two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping. Fitzgerald said Patterson had no previous criminal history in Wisconsin.
Authorities said no other suspects were being sought. The neighborhood where Jayme was found remained blocked off by police Friday morning.
Jake Patterson, 21, was arrested on kidnapping and first degree murder charges after Wisconsin teen Jayme Closs was found alive. (Photo: Barron County Sheriff’s Department)
Neighbor Daphne Ronning said Patterson’s parents moved to the home about 15 years ago and that Jake and his brother were raised there. The parents moved to another home once the boys became older, but Patterson and his brother continued to use the home.
What is her family saying?
Jeff Closs, Jayme’s uncle, told KARE-TV, in Minneapolis, that the family is in shock.
“We thought it was going to be a different ending and we’re so happy that you know, hopefully she’s OK,” he told the station on Thursday.
Jayme’s aunt, Kelly Engelhardt told KARE she’s prayed for this moment “every single day.”
Jayme was taken to a local hospital Thursday night and reunited with family.
Elizabeth Smart calls it a ‘miracle’
Elizabeth Smart, an outspoken advocate on kidnapping after her much publicized captivity in 2002 shook the nation, called it a miracle Friday that Jayme was found alive.
Smart posted on Instagram: “What a brave, strong, and powerful survivor!!!! No matter what may unfold in her story let’s all try to remember that this young woman has SURVIVED and whatever other details may surface the most important will still remain that she is alive.”
How long has she been missing?
Jayme has been missing since Oct. 15. Around 1 a.m. that day, police received a 911 call that led them to the Closs home, where parents James, 56, and Denise Closs, 46, were dead from gunshot wounds. Jayme was gone and there weren’t any solid leads on her whereabouts. Police believed she was at the house when her parents were killed. Hours later, local authorities said the girl was in danger and asked the public for help finding her. An Amber Alert was also issued.
What do we know about Jayme’s last three months?
Authorities did not offer details on the investigation Thursday night. The FBI and Wisconsin’s Division of Criminal Investigation are working with local authorities on the case. A press conference is scheduled for Friday morning.
Contributing: Jen Zettel-Vandenhouten, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Haley BeMiller, Green Bay Press-Gazette. Follow Ashley May on Twitter: @AshleyMayTweets
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